As a dietitian who DOES NOT love to cook, I struggle with insecurity that I don’t measure up sometimes. There are RDs making amazing dishes and concocting recipes off the top of their heads that really seem to enjoy it. Meanwhile, I have a few staples that I call on most of the time and my trusty backup plan, cereal, for when I get tired of those dishes. Truthfully, there are a lot of other things I’d rather do than cooking. And though I believe that preparing your own meals (in advance when possible) is the best way to control what you put into your body, I recognize that for many, cooking and meal planning are not enjoyable or practical. Here are my tips for sticking to your health goals when cooking is not your favorite activity:
1. Don’t check out. Not cooking everything from scratch doesn’t give you free reign to go crazy. No matter what you choose, consider the portion size and what’s in it. Is there a healthier option available? Could you lose the sauce? Do you need the sour cream and the cheese? Staying engaged will help you make better choices more often.
2. Prepare yourself for lazy days. Stock up on quick items that can build a healthy meal. Some of my favorites to have on hand are frozen, steam-able vegetables and microwavable baked potatoes. I can cook them right in their packaging in 5-8 minutes and then I only have to figure out what protein to serve with it.
3. Be efficient. Take advantage of times when you’re feeling especially creative by prepping items or whole meals to be frozen and reheated later. Look for strategies that work for your lifestyle. Is it easier to make a dump meal in the crockpot every morning or would you rather commit to a 30 minute meal on most nights? Choose what works best for you and find ways to make it interesting.<
4. Don’t beat yourself up. Moving toward a healthier lifestyle means taking small steps in the right direction. Try not to be critical of yourself for not being perfect. Instead, focus on what you can do in that moment. Skip dessert, get the lunch portion, or go for the flat bread instead of the hamburger bun. Focus on your long term goal of good health and your body will respond to the positive changes.
What other strategies do you use to optimize health outside of cooking? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Written by Angela Stancil MS, RD, LDN